Gnat Creek Hatchery Visitors' Guide
Gnat Creek Hatchery was constructed in 1960 as part of the Columbia River Fisheries Development Program (Mitchell Act)—a program to enhance declining fish runs in the Columbia River Basin. The facility is used for egg incubation and rearing of spring Chinook and winter steelhead. Most of the production is released off-station.
The hatchery is an easy drive toward Oregon’s coast on Highway 30 and a visitor-friendly place for the entire family. With lots to do, located on beautiful Gnat Creek and tucked away amid the rainforest, this is a worthwhile stop on the way to the coast.
Best time to visit: year-round; March - August for fishing.
Hours of operation: 7:30 a.m. to dusk; 7 days a week
Fish raised: spring Chinook salmon and steelhead
What to see and do: The hatchery is open to visitors daily from 7:30 a.m. to dusk, including a show pond with large rainbow trout and sturgeon, in addition to a fish food station for the public. An informational kiosk and picnic areas are available for visitor use. Spring Chinook and winter steelhead fill the fish raceways at Gnat Creek Hatchery. For visitors who want more than a day trip to explore the hatchery and adjacent Clatsop State Forest, Gnat Creek trail leads to a popular campground that is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Nearby: Bradley State Scenic Viewpoint and Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge. ADA-accessible restrooms are available at a nearby wayside.
Fishing: Steelhead are available to the angler from December through February. For the angler seeking spring Chinook, May to July is the best time at Gnat Creek. The hatchery provides 2-1/2 miles of easy fishing access for spring Chinook and winter steelhead.
Trails: Three nature trails wind through a Coast Range forest and the Nicolai-Wickiup Watershed, providing visitors with miles of recreational opportunities. The trails begin at Gnat Creek Hatchery where visitors can learn about the salmon lifecycle and how hatcheries play a role in revitalizing listed and endangered native fish populations. One trail leads to the campground, while the others weave through Clatsop State Forest.
Along the trails are a variety of vegetation and habitats, many with marked plants, flowers and trees. This is a great place to hike year-round to see the seasonal changes of this coastal rainforest. Gnat Creek flows over an ancient basalt lava delta (Columbia River Basalt flows) that has been lifted by pressure to form the coast range. Gnat Creek falls nearly 2,000 feet over several water falls in just four short miles where it flows into the lower Columbia.
Wildlife viewing opportunities:
- The beautiful rainforest trails at Gnat Creek Hatchery and adjacent Clatsop State Forest sets the stage for optimal wildlife viewing and recreation including a variety of vegetation, both new and old as well as diverse wildlife opportunities including salmon and steelhead runs, American bald eagles, salamanders, deer and elk and a multitude of migrating birds.
- Year-round expect to see great blue heron, kingfisher, American dippers and migrating songbirds.
- In spring and summer, look for migrating salmon and steelhead, osprey and the occasional bald eagle. Warm weather also brings the sound of Pacific treefrogs adding to the mid-summer night’s dream ambiance.
- During fall and winter there are often opportunities to see black-tail deer and Roosevelt elk on the upper Gnat Creek trail. In cold weather, nesting bald eagles and a pileated woodpecker can be seen.
Group and School Visits: Located between Astoria and St. Helens right on Highway 30, Gnat Creek Hatchery features ample parking for personal vehicles or buses. The hatchery supports education outreach, hosting many visits and tours throughout the year for students of all ages. In 2008, the hatchery built an outdoor classroom to further expand their commitment to education.
Directions: The hatchery is located 18 miles east of Astoria on Hwy. 30.
Address and Phone:
Gnat Creek Hatchery
92645 Gnat Hatchery Road
Clatskanie, OR 97016